Sunday, July 31, 2016

More Travel Day Woes

Seriously HATE travel days.  
Getting into the US is trickier than getting into Canada.  It felt like a warm welcome going into Canada, and somewhat of a cold greeting coming into the US.  Oh well.          
And this seems to be the sweet gift the US border left us with.  Just a few minutes after crossing the border, the car's system starting freaking out about our tire pressure.  Wonder why with these three beauties?!  But Bill got it changed and us back on the road in a little more than an hour.  Go Bill!        
But our day wasn't over.  Our trailer blew a tire when we were about half an hour from Deception Pass, where we were meeting my sister and her kiddos for lunch and fun.  We showed up about an hour and a half late (we were an hour ahead when we started our day), but fortunately my brother-in-law warned the kiddos that we might be late, cuz we might get a flat tire or something.  Oish.  Thanks for the jinx!      
We did actually make it to Deception Pass, so the day ended happily.

Lions, Tigers, and BEARS!

I was a little disappointed in the wildlife in Banff, truth be told.  Yes, we saw a herd of elk our first night there.  BUT, they talk about the animals just walking down the mainstreet of Banff.  Never saw that.  Except for the horses that pulled carriages.  I mean, the entire town has bear proof trash cans outside.  No big animals.  Sigh.   We did, however, have three (possibly four) bear sightings in our time in Canada.  Two while we were in Banff, one or two in EC Manning.  
This was our first bear sighting.  There was a large crowd pulled over on the side of the road, and experience has taught us that means a big animal is nearby, so we joined them.  I immediately got this photo.  About five minutes after this photo, rangers shooed us all away. An exciting way to start our day trip out to Lake Louise.         I apparently deleted the other picture of a bear in Banff.  So sad.  But as we were driving to Jasper, we caught sight of more people stopping on the side, and the bear was right there at the fence line.  We didn't stop that time, but we were happy to get the chance to see another bear.  The third bear sighting (?) was on our hike of Frosty Mtn Trail, where K thinks she saw a bear.  Very exciting to think we were that close to a bear, but I'm very happy it was just a vague sighting and not a bigger encounter!   Our fourth sighting scared the daylights out of me.  Much like a deer might shock you by jumping out into the road, this little bear jumped out of the forest onto the side of the road, where (I'm thankful) he stayed while we drove by.  Bill did slam on the brakes and swerve just to make sure we didn't do damage, and it took me five minutes or so to calm down, but we all ended the encounter safe and sound.

EC Manning Park

We needed a place to camp between Banff and Seattle, so I scoured our Adventure Atlas (Rand McNally) to find a campground and settled on EC Manning Provincial Park in BC.  We arrived to find our reserved spot filled, but without people.  Hmmm...  After driving around a bit and talking to a ranger, we made our way back to our site to find the dad examining our reservation sheet on the campsite post.  We hung out for a bit at the campground playground while they packed up and left, and then made our way over to our riverfront site.  And oh, was it worth the wait.  
This is the view from our campsite.  Those are our kids exploring the (very chilly) waters on our first evening.  They were quite cranky that we wouldn't let them get on their suits and actually swim, but they had camp chores, so testing the waters was all they could do.        
For whatever crazy reason, NS and NB decided they needed to do a polar plunge.  BUT, they were lame with their "plunge."  It turned into a wade, but with much enouragement from us, they agreed to sit down.  Some in deeper waters than others.  As the day worn on, they even agreed to dunk the head.  We eventually got them to swim the rapids, some small currents in our part of the river.  After much trepidation, they had a ton of fun and rode the rapids over and over again.  Thank you to the girls from another campsite who showed my guys that it was fun and easy!    
NS at the rapids.  What you see is pretty much all there is to them, they go just beyond the picture to end at some low rocks.  The kids really enjoyed doing this, and we spent the better portion of our first whole day there just swimming in the river.            
Spotted sand piper at Lightning Lakes in EC Manning.  NB wanted me to video this little dude because he liked his song so much, but we were actually pretty far away and I didn't think the microphone on my camera would be able to pick it up so nicely.  We initially were going to do a lake hike, but NS snarkily suggested the Frosty Mtn Trail, and I thought that sounded like a dandy idea.  My hip has been giving me trouble all year, so I thought the uneven terrain and the steep ascent would be great for me.  I was right, so I'm very thankful the snark in my son came out that day!  Unfortunately, I had some very cranky campers who were displeased with taking such a hike.  Yeah, we hiked a good attitude into those dudes. I told them we wouldn't stop hiking until all attitudes improved.  
Did the ruffled grouse spotting improve attitudes?  No.  On we hike!              
Beautiful forest scenery improve attitudes?  Not at all.  Didn't even look.  Grumble, grumble grumble...on we hike!            
Trees swarming with mountain chickadees improve attitudes?  I spent a lot of time trying to get this picture, and so others got into the photography aspect, and that finally brought out the good moods.  So we did indeed turn back and head back down the mountain, and from then on, we were good nature observers.      
We checked out many mushrooms, including this mini mushroom.          
These flowers caught our eye.              
The rock slide where G paused to collect himself.           K even thought she saw a bear.  I was keeping my eyes out, because bears had been spotted in the areas near where we were hiking, and I kept pausing because I thought I heard things, but I never saw a bear.  K said she saw a large animal, though, and she would prefer us to pick up the pace, thank you.   All in all, our time at EC Manning was fun and relaxing.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Church, Cave and Basin, Calgary

Our Sunday started off with mass at St. Mary's in Banff.  The priest asked visitors to say where they were from, and the couple behind us was from St. Mary's in Fairfax, VA!  That was really cool meeting someone from our old parish, so we spent some time talking with them after mass.  Never did catch their names, though.  Hmmm.....          
After mass, we stopped off at Cave and Basin, the birthplace of Canada's national park system.  This is inside the cave, where there's a hot spring.  You're not allowed to touch the water, in order to keep the habitat safe for the snails.  It also smells a lot of sulphur, so after snapping the picture, we were happy to get back out of the cave.  Outside you can catch a better view of the snails in the hot spring, and there's a special area for touching the water that doesn't flow the water back into the spring.  I do so love a hot spring!        
We didn't do much in Calgary.  But as we were driving around, I spotted this sign.  Teen burger?  I can't imagine a teen tastes that good...  We got to see (from the road) the Olympic park, but we had a hard time finding parking in the actual city, so we did some sight seeing from the road.  We hit some grocery stores and then headed back to Banff.


We took a day and left Banff and headed up to Jasper National Park.  It was a much quieter experience.  We got to see three different lakes:  Hector Lake, Lower Waterfowl Lake, and Bow Lake.  We were part of just a handful of people at each lake.  
Hector Lake is advertised as a photographer's dream.  It was beautiful, and only just a short walk around it.  So while we took a bunch of cool photos, we only spent a little time there.  Before we walked around the lake, we enjoyed a nice lunch at the picnic tables, with just a wee hint of rain.            
NS even got to try out the water just a bit.  Hector Lake doesn't have a beach, it's surrounded by the forest, so NS took a spot on the shoreline and dunked his hands.            
One of the many glaciers seen from the road.  We spent the day driving the Icefields Parkway, so we got to see a ton of cool glaciers.  I think the parkway takes more than three hours to drive, but we only spent maybe two hours, plus all the time we spent at the various lakes, so that we could get back to the campsite for dinner.  Lots of beautiful scenery in Jasper, totally worth the drive.  We also decided that if we come back this way, we would camp in Jasper rather than in Banff.  Banff is very crowded, and Jasper is less visited, which suits us just fine.        
We took a small-ish stop at Lower Waterfowl Lake.  It was a beautiful hike with some beach area, and tons of forest.  NB was really putting his watershoes to work, testing all the waters he came to.  K joined him for a bit, but the water was very cold, so she wasn't enjoying it as much as NB was.         We also took a brief stop at Bow Lake.  The kids were done by this point, so they just stayed in the car, and I even left my camera behind.  But it was a beautiful hike, and if we had more energy, I would have insisted we take the hike to the waterfall.  But at the end of the day, sometimes just taking in the sights is good enough.
  Back at the campsite, relaxing in style.  We do so love our campfires!

Lake Louise

Lake Louise was on my list of things to do in Banff.  It's a very popular site.  VERY POPULAR.  With the gigantic mobile, we were able to pass all the other vehicles vying for car parking and head right to bus parking.  Right off the trail.  SWEET!  
This is the first look at the lake.  What you don't see in this picture are the tons and tons of other people trying to get the gorgeous shot, too.  Right behind us is a resort lodge, gorgeous, huge, and filled to capacity.  Fortunately, most of the crowd doesn't take the actual hike, they simply stay at the immediate shore and take pictures.      
They were all excited to try out the waters.  The blue of the waters in Banff is truly amazing, unlike any other waters I've seen.  They're an aqua blue, so clear.  The mountains surrounding Lake Louise are home to glaciers, so I can only imagine the waters are icy, but the kids loved playing around in it.  I'm more a hot springs kinda gal.      
I was taken with the mushrooms on this trip.  Nathan was the first to spot them, but I really loved sitting and observing them.  This one was huge, to me, and different from a lot of mushrooms I've seen.            
You could hear the boat tour from shore, so I hung out for a bit listening to what the tour guide said.  I can't remember anything now, so I guess I should have paid more attention!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Travel Days

Seriously hate travel days.  Break down, set up, spend all day in the car....find out you made the stupid reservation for the wrong stinking month.  Holy stink.  So that's $120 worth of mistake I'll never get back.  BUT, we did get a campsite, and we arrived here early enough to setup.  Without lunch, though.  Travelled all day, passed a time zone, and didn't get dinner until 6pm local.  We were all hungry and cranky.  So we got dinner before going to the local grocery store.  It's a nice store.  But I held off on major purchases because we need to hit Costco and Wal-Mart, and I might as well get the majority of things while I'm at those places.   Benewah campground at Heyburn State Park (still Idaho) is beautiful.  It's a forest on a lake, the marshy end of a lake.  While the temperature at night here was similar to Lake Cascade, it felt warmer because of the trees surrounding us.  G and I have been having some allergy issues, but I'm taking my meds.  Him?  Not so much.  He'll take it if he gets desperate.   Today we're headed to Couer d'Alene to hit the Costco and Wal-Mart and have a poke around.  We might also try to hit Spokane while we're here.  A friend reminded us to renew our DMNS membership so that we could get reciprocity entrance at a bunch of different museums, and one happens to be in Spokane.  So thank you, Jamie!

Johnston Trail

I've been wanting to hike for a while now.  I tend to associate getting to camp with getting to hike.  We haven't done a lot of it so far on this adventure, so when Bill asked what I wanted to do first, I said hike.  While in Banff yesterday, I picked up several brochures on what to do in the area, and the Johnston hike looked awesome.  Canyons, waterfalls...what more could I ask?  We were not disappointed....  
This sign was the only indicator we had in miles for the distance of our walk.  I'm not good with km just yet, so this sign was helpful to me.            
We kept getting teased with mini little waterfalls.  This one had a particular interest--there was a logjam there!  Plus, check out the color of the water.  Simply fantastic.  And it is so amazingly clear, I've not really see such clear water before.      
At the lower falls, you can walk inside a little tunnel and come out right in front of the tunnel!  There's a guardrail so you don't do anything stupid, but you get to stand really close, get sprayed by the really cool water, and feel the rush of cool air.  So amazing!          
The outside view of lower falls isn't nearly as impressive as the tunnel view.  It was just such an amazing hike filled with some absolutely fantastic views.  I highly recommend this hike.  It's the most popular hike in the park, and if you only stick to the lower falls, you hang with the crowd.  But keep going to the upper falls.  Way better!          
This is from the bottom of upper falls.  Absolutely stunning.  And the roar of the water is incredible.  Even G, who was feeling sick, thanked me for forcing him on the hike.  Totally amazing.            
There was another falls at the top of the upper falls.  We truly had a great day hiking.

Oh Canada!

We're now international travelers!!!!!  We crossed the border into Canada around 4pm, much later than we had wanted.  
Our entry point was in British Columbia, but our final destination was in Alberta.  Tragically, we passed back into Mountain Time, which meant that instead of pulling into camp around 8pm (*holy crap*), it was really 9pm (*even crappier holy crap*).  These long travel days are going to just do me in.  Blech.          
But on the plus side, we got to spend a little more than an hour with my uncle Steve.  Not a long time, but much more time than I've spent with him in several years!  And I got to meet his posse.  It was great to spend time with Cari and the kids.  A detour well worth it!      
So many wonderful scenes out our windows.  Just amazingly beautiful!              
And we got to see elk on our first night!  We got in so late we decided to skip cooking and head into town for dinner.  We got to see a whole bunch of these beauties as we made our way through the park.  Awesome.

Benewah Camping

K and I went for a girls only hike while at Benewah.  We practiced our observation skills and really enjoyed what we saw and heard.  
One of possibly a gazillion lake shots we took while on our hike.  It was a beautiful morning and the lake was fabulous.            
K practicing her pose on the trail.  She's getting good!          
Signs of life on the trail.  We were the only ones on the trail that morning, so it was a nice, quiet hike together, paying attention to the plants and animals as we walked.            
K took this picture.  I kept trying to get a really good picture of it, but no dice.  She gave it one try and nailed it.  The squirrels at Benewah had a squeaky chip chip chip about them.        
Tracks and a tunnel!  We saw a train on these same tracks later in the day, so I'm glad didn't investigate any further.  This was the end of our road, so we turned around and headed back to camp.  A great way to spend half an hour!

Sunday, July 17, 2016


For Mass today we decided to head into Spokane.  It's only about an hour away from our campsite, we missed all the masses near our campsite (Saturday masses only), and we wouldn't have a chance to be back in Spokane any time soon.  Bill did some searching and found St. Aloysius on Gonzaga's campus.
It was a beautiful building and a great mass.  The kids were fascinated with the inside, since our church is a very modern one and this one is a more traditional one.   Today's reading was about Martha complaining to the Lord about Mary sitting on her duff and not helping her out.  The priest went ahead and agreed with her, which earned him some applause, but then he went on about hospitality and our responsibilities in this world.  It was a good homily.        
Afterwards, we took some time to check out the outdoors.  There's a beautiful grotto, so we spent some time in prayer there before heading out.            
We toodled around Spokane for a bit.  There are beautiful waterfalls.  It was a very warm day, and it's hard to find a place to park our beastie, so much of what we saw was from the car.  We enjoyed our time there are are glad we made the trek!        

Oish. Really??

So camping isn't as cheap as I might have imagined, especially when you get hit with transaction fees PER NIGHT when you make a reservation.  But really Idaho?  Places we've stayed are all even dollar amounts per night.  Not Idaho.  Lake Cascade was $18.78/night (c'mon guys), and Benewah is $20.14.  I'm good at math, but that's just absurd to put me at a pay station and ask me to figure out a 5 night stay.  And it's different if you're a resident (still not even dollar amounts, though).  Oh, and if you have a park pass, at some you subtract $5/night, but others you pay an additional $5/night if you DON'T have one.  Crikeys, guys, get it together.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Idaho Scenery

Idaho is so beautiful.  I've never been here before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect.  Here's what we've been seeing:  
NS reading while the sunsets at Lake Cascades State Park          
J made us sausages for our breakfast.  Yum!!!